The exiled former president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, is to be tried in absentia for the murder of Thomas Sankara, one of Africa’s most revered post-independence leaders who was killed in a 1987 coup. Sankara, a Marxist, pan-African leader, was murdered after four years in power and succeeded by his former friend Compaoré, who has repeatedly denied involvement. Compaoré went on to become one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, governing Burkina Faso for 27 years. Compaoré and 13 others face charges of complicity in murder, and concealing the body of Sankara and several aides who were killed alongside him. The former president has been in exile in Ivory Coast since 2014, when he was swept from power by mass protests triggered by his attempt to extend his tenure. The trial is a landmark moment in a 34-year quest for justice, led by Sankara’s family and supported by many in Burkina Faso. While in power, Compaoré denied calls for Sankara’s remains to be exhumed, but the country’s transitional government reopened the investigation in 2015. In 2016 Burkinabé authorities issued an international warrant for Compaoré’s arrest, but Ivorian authorities have rejected extradition requests for the former president who has since become a citizen of Ivory Coast.
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